The recreational fisheries for these species generate a significant portion of Florida's $6 billion annual recreational fishing economy, and provide jobs for thousands. For example, it is estimated that a bonefish generates $75,000 over its lifetime. The need for further protection of the species listed as well as habitat protection has never been greater. The regulations being proposed will further protect the fishery, Florida's rich angling heritage, and the economic revenue the fisheries generate.
Listing these species as "Catch and Release only" would prohibit commercial harvest, and would limit recreational harvest to those possessing a 'kill' (aka 'trophy') tag. The proposed definition of a "trophy/kill" tag is: A tag purchased by anglers wishing to or in hopes of breaking existing world or state weight records. The current tarpon tag program could be redesigned and all three species could be included under a single tag. A trophy/kill tag would be needed for an angler to be in possession of a dead bonefish, tarpon, or permit. A bonefish, tarpon, or permit could be harvested only if an angler has a tag. FWC would establish the fee structure and reporting procedures for the new tag.
These proposed regulations are not unprecedented, and would help position Florida more competitively in recreational fisheries tourism. The country of Belize recently established new regulations for bonefish, tarpon, and permit - these species are now "Catch and Release only" in Belize. The adoption of this type of requirement by the state of Florida could encourage other Gulf states to adopt similar regulations in hopes of protecting their own recreational fisheries as well as protecting tarpon, which are now known to circulate the Gulf of Mexico. Granting Catch and Release only status to bonefish, tarpon, and permit will help ensure these economically important fisheries continue into the future.